I wonder what happens in the brain when we read comics. What is that mystical/biological sweet spot hit when our visual centers are fed a certain amount of information, yet our imagination left plenty of work to do filling in the gaps between the panels? It is a certain kind of magic that is hard to explain – something about entering another world so quickly, so fully that we feel like more of a participant in these stories than we do with any other form of entertainment.
Always a reader, it wasn’t until college that I had a love affair with comics, almost exclusively in the form of trade paperbacks. The Sandman, Watchmen, Preacher and various titles loaned to me by friends – these were the stories I read in between the textbooks and articles driving me toward my Political Science degree. By the end of the Preacher run in 2000, however, I had mostly pulled away from comics. In large part, this was because I never could get into buy single issues. It seemed to me like every title out there had dozens, if not hundreds of back issues. Even with trades, I began to feel more and more like I didn’t know where to start. So, slowly but steadily, comics and I parted ways.
Then, a fateful encounter with Bryan (The Nerd) while standing in line for DragonCon lead to a gig as Editor in Chief for Word of the Nerd, a website that writes about just about everything, but primarily comics. I discovered a few things very quickly. 1) There are new comics coming out all the time, so there are plenty of #1s to be found. 2) There have been a lot of wonderful trades in the last 10 years and 3) DC was just about to reboot its entire universe, starting each title with new #1s.
To keep a long story short, given the opportunity to review titles at random, and a circle of colleagues from whom to get excellent advice, I quickly found myself with an honest to God pull-list at my local comic shop for the first time…well, ever. And I have to tell you, I’m loving every minute of it.
If you’re looking for a way back into comics yourself (or perhaps in for the first time), you might want to consider the following writers and artists:
1. Jim McCann - OK, technically The Return of the Dapper Men (with truly, staggeringly beautiful art from Janet Lee) isn’t an ongoing title, but rather a giant masterpiece of fantasy-meets-sci-fi-meets-kids-meets-Tim-Gunn wonder. It is, however, the reason I am now purchasing Mind the Gap, also from Mr. McCann (with artist Rodin Esquijo). Mind the Gap is only two issues in, but already has established its identity as an (attempted) murder-mystery with a supernatural twist. The main character, Ellis, begins our story “waking” from a coma to find herself in what we can only assume is the titular gap – a place called The Garden where those whose bodies are too damaged for life, but not damaged enough to fully pass over into death, hang out. McCann weaves clever and beautiful touches throughout the story that readers on the look out for clues would be wise to note – song lyrics, time stamps on clocks and watches, even the slightest details may hold the key to discovering whodunit. I had the opportunity to interview Mr. McCann yesterday, so stay tuned for my write-up on Monday.
2. Scott Snyder – While I will have to return to my trade paperback roots to catch up with American Vampire, I can’t complain. I love reading trades and Snyder’s work on that title is positively riveting. As Stephen King (who co-wrote the first collection) says, this is a story for people who want vampires to be scary again. I might add that Snyder brings more than just a renewed sense of terror to the vampire mythology, but also a sense of place, history, and character-depth that make the story standout from other contemporary vampire tales. He also is writing both Swamp Thing and Batman in DC’s New 52. I have been keeping up with Swamp Thing from issue one and won’t stop until he does. If a big, green tree monster sounds weird to you, let me assure you there is so much more to the story than that. There are only 10 issues to catch up on and the first trade (collecting 1-7) will be released in August, so you shouldn’t have too much work to do to get on-pace. I have not read his work on Batman yet, but have ordered the first trade and from everything I hear, his work is once again outstanding.
3. Jonathan Hickman, Nick Pitarra and Chris Peters. The Manhattan Projects had me at “INFINITE OPPENHEIMERS” The publisher, Image Comics, teases audiences with the following, and I doubt I could do much better to whet your appetite for the title:
What if the research and development department created to produce the first atomic bomb was a front for a series of other, more unusual, programs? What if the union of a generation’s brightest minds was not a signal for optimism, but foreboding? What if everything… went wrong?
I’ll tell you “what if” – awesome, is what if! This is another title just getting started – you only have four issues to catch up with, but you better call your store in a hurry. These sell out.
4. Robert Kirkman – OK, I’m cheating a little bit here. While I am a huge Walking Dead fan on AMC, I have not read those comics. I may someday, but for now the show is fulfilling all of my zombie needs. What I have done, however, is purchased the first four issues of his new series, Thief of Thieves. Since I haven’t read them yet, I can’t promise they are good, but I’ll come back as soon as I have and leave a little review. From most of the reviews I have read so far, the series is off to a good start.
5. Sam Humphries and Jerry Gaylord. If you have ever been to a fandom con, you know the odds are good that unless you wash your hands about 10 times a day, you are likely to experience con-crud by mid-day on Sunday. Sooner, if you’re unlucky. Now, imagine if that con-crud at Comic-con actually turned out to be a virus that turns folks into zombies. That is the premise of the phenomenal Fanboys Vs. Zombies from BOOM! Studios. I purchased the first three issues at HeroesCon strictly on recommendation from friends, and had all three signed. Best purchase I’ve made in a long time. What a bargain for so much fun. I highly recommend this title and, again, it’s just getting started so you can catch up easily.
These are the big five for me right now. I have other titles I am reading, so keep an eye out for reviews here and over at our brother site, Word of the Nerd. And please, if you’ve never given comics a try, do it now. There is so much good stuff out there.
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